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This article is about the game. For the Dutch delicatesse see: Croquet (food).

Croquet is a recreational game and, latterly, a competitive sport that involves hitting wooden or plastic balls with a mallet through hoops embedded into the grass playing arena.

The game was apparently invented in Ireland in the 1830s and taken to England as a pastime of the aristocracy in the 1850s. It may have evolved from the earlier mallet and ball game pall mall. It made its way to the United States, Australia, and France, and whilst never hugely popular has continued to maintain a substantial following.

It was an event at the 1900 Summer Olympics. Roque, an event at the 1904 Summer Olympics is believed to have been a variation.

There are several variations of croquet played, differing in the scoring systems, order of shots, and layout (particularly in social games where play must be adapted to smaller-than-standard playing courts). The main competitive version played in the UK is Association Croquet, where players can take multiple shots in one turn provided while they either a) hit the ball through the correct hoop ("runs" a hoop), or b) hit another ball. Upon hitting another ball, the player must play his next shot with the two balls touching; the "Croquet Stroke", from which the game takes its name. The winner is the player who, with each of his balls, runs each hoop twice in order and strikes the centre peg.

As long "breaks" (continuous play by one player) became more common as the standard of play improved, "Advanced Play" (a variant of association play for expert players) was introduced. This gave penalties to a player who ran certain hoops in the same turn. In response, feats of skill such as triple peels and even sextuple peels , in which the partner (or opponent ball) was caused to run a number of hoops in a turn by the strikers ball, became more common in order to avoid the penalties.

Also played competitively in the UK is Golf Croquet, in which each player takes turns trying to hit a ball through the same hoop, the winner being the player who manages to hit the ball through the most hoops first. Golf Croquet has the advantage of being easier to learn and play, but its critics claim that the lack of croquet strokes in the game means that it is less intellectually demanding. There are other variations popular in other croquet-playing nations.

As well as club-level games, there are regular world championships and international matches between croquet-playing countries. The sport has particularly strong followings in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia. Many other countries also play.

The current (April 04) association croquet World Champion is Robert Fulford (UK), although the World Rankings puts Reg Bamford (South Africa) as #1. The UK recently won the Macrobertson Shield, the major international trophy in Croquet.

In the UK, the sport is run by the Croquet Association -

Some people consider croquet to be viciously competitive. However, the ability in versions other than Golf Croquet to gain extra strokes favour players who position balls with more care, rather than simply as far away from everything else as possible. At championship standard association croquet, players can sometimes make all 26 points (13 for each ball) in two turns.

Croquet in art

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Last updated: 11-07-2004 05:11:58